The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for bankruptcy in the wake of sexual abuse allegations. In May, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court set a deadline for abuse survivors to file a claim. As a result of the allegations, many lawyers and law firms started advertising campaigns of their own.
Independent law firms launched advertising to inform potential victims about the deadline. On August 25, the Boy Scouts filed a motion to halt these ads.
Any survivor of sexual abuse seeking compensation from the Boy Scouts must file by the deadline. Victims must file a bankruptcy claim by November 16, 2020.
Boy Scouts File For Bankruptcy
In February 2020, the Boy Scouts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is used to protect businesses that are struggling financially. The process evaluates and reorganizes a business’ assets. In doing so, a business can pay off debts while maintaining enough capital to continue operating.
As a part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the Boy Scouts was required to launch an awareness campaign to reach potential claimants.
The marketing campaign will cost roughly $7 million and is expected to reach 110 million people. The campaign will feature television spots, radio placements, online ads and print advertising. The campaign will run through October 17, 2020.
New Motion Filed As Victim Deadline Approaches
In August, the Boy Scouts filed a motion to stop law firms from advertising to survivors of Boy Scouts sex abuse. The motion claims that independent legal advertising, run at the same time as the Boys Scouts’ own campaign, may confuse survivors. The Boy Scouts claims information in some ads is misleading.
However, survivors’ attorneys believe this new motion is an attempt to curb the number of survivors who file a claim. If fewer victims file a claim, the Boy Scouts will presumably pay less in victim compensation. Thus, the organization would avoid full financial accountability for its role in the sexual abuse scandal.
Once the deadline passes, abuse survivors may no longer file a lawsuit against the national organization. Only victims of abuse as recent as February 18, 2020, may file a claim against the organization, once the bankruptcy deadline passes. For many survivors, filing a bankruptcy claim is their only chance to receive compensation for their past abuse.
Attorneys Argue Over Messaging
The Boy Scouts motion claims that dual campaigns may confuse and deter potential claimants.
“Robust noticing of the claims bar date is essential to ensure that abuse survivors have the opportunity to come forward and receive compensation from a potential trust, but it is imperative that all plaintiffs’ attorney advertisements are accurate. Much of the plaintiffs’ attorney advertising currently airing ranges from false to misleading, creating a substantial risk of confusing survivors.”
Law Professor Claims Issue of Free Speech
Survivors’ attorneys argue the Boy Scouts filed the motion to curb the number of claimants. Pamela Foohey — a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law — also weighed in on the issue. Foohey described this matter as “an issue of free speech” in an interview with USA Today.
Foohey argued it is normal for law firms to run advertising around bankruptcy and other mass tort claims. Additionally, Foohey noted that she was unable to find examples of “demonstrably false information” in the legal ads she reviewed from independent law firms.
Bankruptcy Court’s Decision
Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein initially declined to approve the Boy Scouts’ motion to limit all law firm advertising. Her reasoning was that the motion was too broad and potentially encroached on First Amendment rights.
According to Law360, Silverstein did end up addressing the issue with law firms in September. By Silverstein’s order, advertising from law firms may not tell survivors they can file claims anonymously. Additionally, law firms should not inflate the potential compensation a survivor may receive, especially because the court has yet to determine how much will be reserved for survivors.
Filing A Claim Against The Boy Scouts
To receive compensation, survivors abused by scout leaders or volunteers must file a claim by 5 pm EST November 16, 2020.
To file a claim, survivors must submit a Sexual Survivor Proof of Claim with Omni Agent Solutions. Claims can be submitted to the third-party agency by mail or through the website.
Individuals are encouraged to come forward, regardless of when the abuse may have happened. Survivors with limited or repressed memories of the abuse are also encouraged to file a claim. Although money can’t heal the wounds of survivors, for some, seeking justice can be a helpful step within the healing process.
Chase, R. (2020, August 27). Boy Scouts complain of misleading ads to solicit victims. The Associated Press.
Chase, R. (2020, August 31). Attorneys argue over ads targeting Boy Scouts abuse victims. The Associated Press.
Crary, D. (2020, September 1). Boy Scouts launch ads on how abuse victims can seek money. The Associated Press.
Kelly, C. (2020, August 25). Attorneys say Boy Scouts is trying to limit abuse survivors from coming forward by curbing ads. USA Today.
Omni Agent Solutions. (N.D.) Survivors.
(2020, September 17). Firms Told To Stop Running ‘Misleading’ Ads In Scouts’ Ch. 11. Law360.